About Gateway to U.S. Law Schools

This book was written to introduce readers to U.S. law school culture. We designed the book to be used in courses for international students, orientation programs, or in introductory courses to help students become familiar with U.S. law schools. The materials are also designed for courses that fulfill the New York Board of Law Examiner’s requirement that LL.M. students must take a two-credit course “on American legal studies, the American legal system, or a similar course designed to introduce students to U.S. law.” We also encourage students who are new to U.S. law schools to read the book to prepare for their studies, even if it is not assigned for a course.

The book was written by three Georgetown Law Center professors who have taught legal writing for over fifty years combined: Eun Hee Han, Michael J. Cedrone, and Diana R. Donahoe. Our courses include: Legal Practice (1L required writing course), U.S. Legal Writing for LL.M. Students, Foundations of American Law, Introduction to Law in the United States, Transnational Legal Practice, Advanced Writing Courses, Simulation Courses, and Scholarly Writing Courses.

The book provides context to new law students to help them effectively navigate their law school journey and legal careers. It discusses law school culture, including expectations for the law school classroom in general as well as expectations, techniques, and information about legal writing courses. In addition, it provides information on basic American legal concepts and subjects studied in the first-year J.D. curriculum, so that students have a solid foundation for learning U.S. law. 

The book is divided into the following chapters:

Unit 1: U.S. Law Schools

The first unit begins by addressing the overall framework of the U.S. law education system, explaining the various U.S. law degrees and programs as well as the process for entering the U.S. legal profession. It also addresses the expectations of the U.S. law school classroom, including content on professor and student expectations in and out of the classroom as well as exams, grading, and law school curves. It provides a section on resources for seeking help while in law school, including online sources as well as administrative and student resources available in most law schools.

Unit 2:  U.S. Legal Writing Expectations & Techniques

The second unit focuses specifically on legal writing courses, including expectations for a variety of writing courses and the typical documents required in those courses.  It also discusses professor expectations and provides some background on the writing process. In addition, this section focuses on general writing techniques and expectations for writing U.S. legal documents as well as specific issues for students for whom English is not their first language. In addition, it provides a list and explanation of American idioms that are often used in U.S. law schools.

Unit 3: U.S. Legal System & Substantive Law

The third unit provides a primer on the U.S. legal system, including the practices and influences of common, civil, and constitutional law in the U.S. legal system; the division of powers between legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government; and the balance of powers between state and federal governments. The materials demonstrate that rights have expanded and contracted in the course of U.S. history. Finally, this unit provides an overview of subjects that are taught in the first year of law school and tested on the bar exam, including civil procedure, contracts, and torts. 

Student Tools

This section provides helpful resources, such as a glossary of terms and online interactivity, to help the students actively engage in their learning.